House Approves VPPA: Americans Might Soon Be Able To Share Netflix Viewing Data On Facebook

IT Management

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In the last few weeks of the current congress, members seem to going into overdrive as they introduce some last minute bills. The latest bill to reach approval in the House is of particular significance as its an update to the archaic, and frankly rather stupid, VPPA.

The Hill reports that the House, by voice vote, approved H.R. 6671 which is an update to the Video Privacy Protection Act. The bill, originally passed in 1988, was meant to prevent the press and other groups from accessing video rental records of citizens without their written consent. Video rentals are a thing of the past, however, and now the bill only impedes the ability of Netflix to let its users share their viewing history on Facebook and other social networks.

This is the second time that the House has approached an update to the VPPA. Last year, the House passed H.R. 2471 which the current H.R. 6671 draws heavily from. The bill never made it past the Senate, but the legislative body did offer some suggestions that made it into the new iteration of the bill.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, had this to say about the updated bill:

"With today's technology, consumers can quickly and efficiently access video programming through a variety of platforms, including through Internet protocol-based video services, all without leaving their homes. This bill updates the VPPA to allow videotape service providers to facilitate the sharing on social media networks of the movies watched or recommended by users."

Ignoring Goodlatte's use of the antiquated term "videotape," the bill itself has some good stuff in it. Those who fear that the proposed update gets rid of all privacy protections in the VPPA will be happy to know that individual privacy plays a major role in the House bill after taking suggestions from the Senate.

The first update to the bill includes a clause that requires video rental companies (i.e. Netflix) to give consumers a "clear and conspicuous" option to stop sharing their video viewing data on social networks at any time. The second update requires a consumer's consent to expire after 24 months unless they choose to opt in again.

H.R. 6671 will reportedly benefit from bipartisan and bicameral support. It should see easy passage in the next few weeks after lawmakers are able to sort through the current fiscal cliff mess.